The Gift of Life at UM Shore Regional Health

Wearing blue and green on April 12 helped promote awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation as the gift of life.

University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is passionate about saving lives. During April, National Donate Life Month, the health care system joins The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland in honoring patients and families who make the gift of life possible for others through eye, organ and tissue donation.

“We are thankful for this special month in that it brings awareness of the value of eye, organ and tissue donation,” said Ken Kozel, UM SRH president and CEO. “However, this is something Shore Regional Health is passionate about every day of the year — honoring patients and families who make the gift of life possible through organ donation.”

According to Kozel, hospital staff in Cambridge, Chestertown, and Easton all honor donors and their families through “Walks of Respect” and a unique new local program, Quilts of Honor, which provides special quilts, donated by a local quilting guild, as gifts to families of organ and tissue donors.

The Walk of Respect is a moving tribute that a patient’s family may elect and is intended to show honor and gratitude to a donor as he or she makes the final journey in the hospital. Hospital staff members line up to show their silent respect for a difficult decision as the patient passes by on the way to the operating room. Earlier this month, nearly 100 staff, including Kozel, lined the first floor hallway for a Walk of Respect at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton.

“It was a very moving reminder of our mission, purpose and calling,” Kozel said. “The walk took place at Easton, but it could occur at any of our three hospitals. The generous gift of organ donation was made by a family who, in the midst of their own grief, chose to make life possible for someone else waiting for that chance. I was moved by the power of what I witnessed — the compassion, care, respect and the shared bonds between the patient, family and staff.”

Members of Peggy’s Quilters shown are Doretha Sylvester, Peggy Patterson, Linda Hall, Shirley Seward and Sharon Olszewski. Not pictured are Betty Garteman, Janet Covey, Teri Batchlor and Debbie Radke.

The Quilts of Honor program began as an idea this past fall and was implemented early this spring by Shore Regional Health senior leadership and Peggy’s Quilters, a quilting group from Centreville that provided SRH with 12 quilts to give to donor patients and families in 2019. The first, a large white quilt with a vibrant blue star in the center, was given to a patient and their family this month during a Walk of Respect.

Shirley Seward is a member of Peggy’s Quilters, a group of about 20 women who get together to quilt one weekend a month at Peggy’s Quilting Center in Centreville, owned by Peggy Patterson. Seward also is a family nurse practitioner with UM Community Medical Group.

A few of the dozen quilts donated by Peggy’s Quilters.

According to Seward, Peggy’s Quilters makes quilts and pillowcases for a number of charitable organizations. The group has made pillowcases for veterans in military hospitals, blankets for children in local hospitals through Project Linus, pillowcases filled with needed items for families who have lost their homes to fire or have been victims of crime, blankets for hospice patients and quilts for patients undergoing treatment at the Cancer Center in Easton.

“Giving and charity is a big part of what quilters do,” Seward said. “Taking care of others and wrapping around someone in need, if you will, is important to us. When we found out about the Walk of Respect, we jumped at the chance to be a part of this unique tribute through the Quilts of Honor program.”

“We were touched to see the beautiful work Peggy’s Quilters has done on behalf of those patients and families who have chosen to be organ and tissue donors at the end of life, helping others to have a second chance at life,” Kozel said. “Peggy’s Quilters has enabled us to provide a very tangible gift in memory and honor of a patient, which helps us show that gratitude and support to the family.”

“Local donors save local lives,” Kozel said during an April 4  flag-raising ceremony, coordinated with The Living Legacy Foundation (LLF) of Maryland, in front of UM Shore Medical Center at Easton. “In Maryland, there are about 3,300 people on the transplant waiting list. A single organ donor can save up to eight people and a single tissue donor may enhance the lives of up to 75 people. Of the 170,000 people we serve in our five-county community, an amazing 92,500 are eye, organ and tissue donors. That’s just incredible. ”

The LLF collaborates and facilitates donation and transplantation in area hospitals, provides support to donor families and educates Marylanders about the life-saving power of donation.

According to Chris Wright, in-house coordinator for The LLF, the raising of the flag during National Donate Life Month signifies hope and gratitude, honoring the lives that have been lost and celebrating the lives that continue because of another’s gift of organ donation. “Shore Regional Health saved seven lives through facilitating two organ donors in 2018 and also enhanced many lives by facilitating 15 tissue donors in 2018,” Wright said.

On Friday, April 12, UM SRH participated in the annual National Donate Life Blue and Green Day. During the day, hospital staff at Cambridge, Chestertown and Easton wore blue and green to bring awareness to organ donation and the need for registered donors.

“At Shore Regional Health, we are committed to patients from birth to death, and also to those who make the renewal of life possible for others,” Kozel said. “We support and stand behind the families and loved ones of these patients who have selflessly donated life so that others may have a second chance at it.”